The Secret of the Fall

Painting of Eastern Towhee Searching for food in fallen leaves,

Eastern Towhee In the Leaves

When I was a kid, I liked everything about the fall leaves.

I liked stomping. I liked raking. I liked jumping.

Wading down the sidewalk, I kicked up a splash of leaves with every step. CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH, four blocks to school every morning, four blocks home in the afternoon. Watching out for the prettiest leaf. This one? Or this one? Comparing. Look, see this red and orange? Mine is prettiest.

Raking was fun, too. A teetering mound, as high as your head. Pile it up, go at a run, a flying leap – DIVE IN! Buried – up to your eyes in rustling fall leaves.

Then the musty earth smell, the roar in your ears, the little bits of leaves, everywhere – in your hair, on your clothes, in your socks.

The only part that was no fun came at the end. The bagging. The bigger the pile, the longer it took.

After a few years, leaves didn’t seem so fun anymore. And maybe that’s the end of childhood,when you can see the work of bagging – before you even start the fun of jumping.

It ruins fall leaves. And a whole lot of other things, too.

But I have a secret, a secret which has brought back the fun of fall yardwork. And I am willing to share this secret, a secret that has earned me 2 (count them, two) Yards of the Month.

 

You DO NOT Have To Bag Your Leaves

As an artist and a gardener, I can tell you that getting rid of leaves is one of those suburban things that just doesn’t make sense.

Salamanders are s sign of a healthy eco-system in your yard

Salamanders Love Hiding In Moist Leafves

From a gardener’s perspective, leaves are healthy. They make great compost. They have nutrients in them that the trees draw up from deep in the soil. WHY would we throw them out?

From an artist’s perspective, leaves are no problem. They’re brown, just like mulch. They look great in your beds, around your shrubs. If your leaves look “too big,” just run them over a few times with a mower or put them in a shredder before you blow them into your shrubbery beds.

The entire trick to mulching with leaves is this: edges. Keep the edges of your beds neat. Take a few bags of brown mulch. Mound the mulch along the edges of the beds. Six inches in, let it thin out. Take a few handfuls and scatter it into the bed so the mulch blends into the natural shredded leaves.

Take it from an artist – the human eye is mysteriously attracted to neat edges, and for some reason will ignore all kinds of messiness – if only the edges are neat.

Save money on mulch. Save money on fertilizer. Leave the Leaves.

 Finally, Be Kind to Small Animals In Your Yard

Leaves make a healthier yard.

Leaves are healthy for all the little creatures who live in our yards. Creatures most of us stopped noticing once we got all grown up. Snails, fireflies, lizards, birds, turtles, salamanders… leaf litter sustains insects and the many, many small animals who eat them.

They all depend on the nutrients of leaf litter to sustain the base, the foundation of their food chain.

Snails and Other Small Creatures Thrive In Leaf Litter

Snails and Other Small Creatures Thrive In Leaf Litter

So be healthy. Be kind to small animals. And remember the secret to having fun again in the fall –

Leave the Leaves.

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